Some interesting maps in Wikipedia:
1. The British Empire at its height.
2. Nations under the parliamentary system.
3. Monarchies of the world.
4. World map with various forms of government.
5. Nations with a unicameral legislature.
6. Freedom House ratings: nations according to degree of freedom, and nations according to whether they are electorate democracies or not.
The BBC’s h2g2 has a good layman’s introduction to The British Parliamentary System, and this rather cheeky exposition: How Effective Is The British Parliament? The House of Commons, of course, has its own official educational website.They dynamics of parliamentary party politics are vividly described in “Burying Caesar: The Churchill-Chamberlain Rivalry” (Graham Stewart). The history of the Conservative Party itself is engrossingly covered in “An Appetite For Power” (John Ramsden, Ramsden).
The parliamentary system of Germany (as of 1999) is described in a publication of the Inter-parliamentary union:
The Italian parliament has two informative sites, for the Italian Senate and the Chamber of Deputies (found via Nicola Lucchi, who explains the general election dynamics of his country).
On the Japanese Diet (parliament), provided one has access to a library, the writings of Mikitaka Masuyama are instructive.
For Malaysia and former PM Mahathir’s reducing the powers of the Supreme Court, see The Economist.com country briefing on Malaysia. Rainer Heufers also surveys the Malaysian parliamentary experience under Dr. Mahathir, here:
(the US Library of Congress also has Portals to the World, which is a good way of accessing information organized according to country: the advantage of the links provided is that they were selected by experts).
The classic text on the merits of parliamentary government in contrast to the presidential system is Walter Bagehot’s The English Constitution, which you can download and read in full.
A university lecture by Alistaire Cole (Comparative European Politics) from the University of Paris gives a modern overview, “The Role of Parliaments in Parliamentary Systems”:
I’d like to point out “More Adventures with Britannia: Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain” (University of Texas Press) which has a particularly interesting essay, “The Rise and Fall of Party Government in Britain and the United States, 1945-1996.” The author, Samuel H. Beer, argues that both the United States and Britain faced a crisis in party government in the 1960’s: changes in society challenged the essentially closed nature of the two-party system. An irony pointed out in the article is that Americans in the 1940s and 1950s seriously discussed adopting some features of the British parliamentary system; the British in turn have seen their parliamentary system become, in effect, more presidential.(amazingly, I found the book at the fourth floor book dump at the main National Bookstore in Cubao for only Php 279.00!)
The urge to make parliamentary systems more presidential has also been seen in Israel, where direct election of the Prime Minister was tried thrice.
Among the exponents of parliamentary government in the past was the late Salvador Araneta, delegate to the 1934 and 1971 constitutional conventions, with his Bayanikasan Constitution (see Jarius Bondoc’s article, too).
Sadly, some of the most interesting sources on past debates are long out of print: Jose Romero’s Not So Long Ago (Alemar-Phoenix, 1977) describes debates during the 1934 Constitutional Convention and the unicameral National Assembly in practice. The memoirs of the late Arturo Tolentino, Voice of Dissent (Alemar-Phoenix, 1989) who served in the premartial law Congress and in the Batasan Pambansa, are particularly instructive.
Also see, “Parliamentary government (The Evolution of fundamental ideas in the 1973 Constitution)” (Augusto Caesar Espiritu) and his poignant diary of the 1971-73 Constitutional Convention, “How democracy was lost: A political diary of the Constitutional Convention of 1971-1972” (Augusto Caesar Espiritu). Espiritu’s diary is one of the most brutally honest political memoirs I’ve read.
The President’s Consultative Commission on Charter Change has an official website which includes its proposals and recommendations. The House of Representatives doesn’t devote space to the topic, and Sigaw ng Bayan’s site is difficult to navigate. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has compiled relevant documents on i-site.ph, starting with the 1987 Constitution, and the three main proposals from the President’s Commission, the People’s Initiative, and the House of Representatives. Particularly useful are the comparative matrices put together by PCIJ. Their blog also has extensive coverage of both pro and con sides of the debate.
Particular thanks to Joey Marino (a critic of the parliamentary system) who pointed out the provisions of the various draft proposals I cited in the show.
My guest on the show was Rep. Teodoro Locsin, Jr. He expressed some pretty strong views, and gave a sense of the feelings of his colleagues in the House of Representatives.
My closing statement:
We have experienced unicameralism several times within living memory. What we haven’t experienced, in its true sense, is parliamentary government. The two approaches, which can be debated on their own, have been joined at the hip. And it’s this joining at the hip that makes some view the proposal as freakish and dangerous, and others to view it as a reasonable, rational, solution to the many defects of our present system. My only question is, are we aware of how it will work? To my mind, no people previously accustomed to directly selecting the executive, has ever willingly given up that power, except as a prelude to a dictatorship. But we Filipinos have always surprised each other, and the world.
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